Mud runs are a fun way for fit, active people to challenge themselves. The obstacles are not impossible, but challenging The routes usually involve hills that can become slippery when enough people who are dripping in water and mud traverse them.
I participated in the Kansas City Warrior Dash on a rainy, cold Saturday recently. I did the event with a group of 11 other women who all work at the YMCA where I work and teach. Six are personal trainers, three are group exercise instructors, four of them are in their twenties and the rest are in their thirties and forties, with a 47 year old being the one closest to me in age.
I got schooled. Badly. Was it the personal trainers? The other group exercise instructors? The young, twenty-somethings? Oh, Hell, no.
Let me go back in time a wee bit. A few months ago a few of the personal trainers started talking about doing a mud run. They were enthusiastic but a little intimidated by the challenge. They talked about the run all the time in front of whoever happened to be around. Two of the people who were constantly hearing about the race were Miss K and Ms C. Well, they got tired of hearing about it and not being included, so they decided they were going to do the race too.
They are both single mothers who spent all of their energy raising their children and trying to make very slender ends meet. They missed the memo that told them they could do anything they wanted to, or that they, too, could be athletes. Getting food on the table was higher on their priority lists than working out as hard as they could so they could post it on Facebook.
I originally had absolutely no intention of doing this event. I’ve done mud races before. I’ve pushed myself as an athlete doing marathons and triathlons. I am comfortable in the knowledge that if I decide I’m going to do something I will put the effort in and do it. But when I heard that Miss K and Ms C were doing the race, I went online and signed up the next day.
You see, I thought these women would need me to be there with them to encourage them through the trials and tribulations of running the obstacle course. I am not in shape to compete, but I am a damn good cheerleader and I know how to encourage people to do things they didn’t think they could do. I thought they’d need me to be there for them.
The entire week before the run everyone in the gym was talking about what the weather would be like. All forecasts said to expect rain and cold. Ugh. I’ve done triathlons in the spring time that were absolutely miserable and I began to dread Saturday. I announced I absolutely would not do any of the water obstacles if it wasn’t warm that day.
Sure enough, Saturday came and the temperatures were cool with an overcast sky. Everyone from the YMCA who had signed up for the race met that morning at the Y so we could carpool. We’d gotten bright pink t-shirts with the slogan “Sweating Pretty,” and there was a lot of nervous giggling as some of the t-shirts were customized to taunt each other.
After about an hour drive to reach the town where the race was being held, we all climbed on a bus to be shuttled over to the start of the race. We were in the last wave to start, so the seats on the bus were already covered in mud and we gingerly tried to find seats that were more tolerable in our innocent, mud-free eyes. There was a lot of laughter and camaraderie in the group and we were having a great time.We reached the site of the actual race and a sea of mud and mud covered people met our eyes. We checked our gear and were heading towards the starting line when we heard the countdown start and our entire group took off running. The race had started!
I quickly realized that one of our group, Miss K, was not with us when we started and she was hollering for us to wait for her. Ms C and I were moving slowly enough that Miss K quickly caught up with us and we were off. The three of us jogged to the first obstacle and the mud-fest began. The rest of our group were way ahead of us and quickly disappeared from view.
There were 13 obstacles on that course and they were not easy. To conquer them is an accomplishment for anyone. For a person who is new to fitness and is larger than your average runner, these courses are a whole new level of challenge.
The second obstacle was a swim across a dirty farm pond in water that was frigid cold. When anyone enters a cold body of water the lungs tend to seize up and it is difficult to breathe. I’ve done this type of swim before and I refused to go in the water. I have asthma and it is too hard on my body to do this.
Both of my friends were determined to try it. They got in the water, swam about 5 feet and turned around. It was cold and the sensation of the muddy bottom of the pond slipping away as they started swimming was disconcerting. Miss K, who hadn’t said a word before she went in, came out and finally confided that she had asthma too. She then proceeded to get sick on the side of the obstacle. After she was done she stood up, squared her shoulders and said “let’s go.” So we did. My admiration for these two women was already growing by the minute.
The obstacles continued to be challenging but we continued to keep moving through them. As we trudged from one challenge to the next, both Miss K and Ms C took the time to look around and marvel at the beauty of the rural setting. They pointed out the green of the grass and the steely grey of the sky. They were right, it was beautiful. I had to wonder if any of the faster, more competitive athletes had taken so much as a moment to take in the beauty of their surroundings.
Ms C alternated between laughing through the challenges and muttering encouraging words to herself. She is a big Survivor fan and told us she’d always wanted to be on that show and she figured this race was as close as she would ever get to that happening. She was determined to enjoy every moment. One of the obstacles was a series of three mud hills that you had to climb and then slide down into a morass of mud about two feet deep. I started to walk around it but when I saw Miss K doing it and then Ms C doing it and I had no choice but to start climbing. Miss K did all three and got out of the last mud pit with little struggle. I did one hill and climbed out as quickly as I could. We both then looked back and saw Ms C who had gotten stuck in the first pit. As hard as we were laughing, Ms C was laughing even harder.
The race felt like it would never, ever, ever end, but we kept going. Miss K attempted every obstacle and succeeded at most. She took her time before starting and would assess how to best get through the obstacle. I’ve seen highly skilled engineers tackle problems with less determination and planning. Every time she successfully passed through an obstacle that I wouldn’t even attempt, my admiration grew.
Finally, the end was near. Miss K took on the last obstacle, which was rope climbing a tall wall, walking across planks to a slide that looked to be about 20 feet high, and then sliding down into yet another pit of mud. I couldn’t reach a rope and by that time was limping due to a foot that had decided to flare up that morning. I stood at the bottom of the slide cheering Miss K on. She finished, and we both turned to see Ms C almost to the finish line.
Now, you would think by that time, even the best trained athlete would be a little low on humor. Not Ms C. She was entertaining the entire crew at the finish line with her celebratory moves. She danced with such joy she was given not just one, but two medals for finishing. That, my friends, is how you finish a race.I signed up for that race thinking I was going to be there to help out these two women. Instead, they taught me lessons that not just every athlete, but every person, should learn. Push your limits. Never say “I give up.” Take a few moments to look around and enjoy the view. Celebrate every accomplishment.
I’ve known a number of professional and elite athletes in my life, but I have never met athletes like Miss K and Ms C. They truly showed me what the heart of a champion looks like. Thank you, ladies, for the lessons.
If you would like to know more about the Warrior Dash, check out the website https://www.warriordash.com/. The money they raise benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.